Clint Hocking Has Left Amazon Game Studios

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Clint Hocking has been cursed by a witch and is now doomed to travel the games industry, joining new developers and then leaving before releasing a single game. In the last five years, the Far Cry 2 designer has joined and left LucasArts, joined and left Valve, and as of yesterday, joined and left Amazon Games Studios.

Hocking joined Amazon in 2014, at roughly the same time the retail giant hired Portal deisgner Kim Swift. In June of 2015, the studio went into hiring overdrive, ramping up development of an “ambitious new PC game project.” Hocking was previously at LucasArts from August 2010 and joined Valve in July 2012 before departing there in January of 2014.

People move around the games industry all the time and mostly it’s not news or at least not interesting news. Hocking leaving Amazon is notable if only because it’s disappointing. Far Cry 2 was great and an extremely interesting piece of game design, as was Hocking’s previous game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. I want to see him do something new.

The first sentence was a joke and Hocking has (probably) not been cursed by a witch, but perhaps the frequent departures speak to a broader issue with the games industry. Back in March, Hocking wrote about his experiences working on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, including the long hours and stress and the consequences of that, which include memory loss:

“Dave had spent a week living in my house. I had curtailed my work week down from 70-80 hours to a normal 40 in order to spend time with him. We had eaten great meals, gone to great bars, seen movies, played games, and talked about our careers and the industry and our pasts and our futures, and all of it was simply fucking gone. I could not remember any of it.

“To be clear – I do not mean I didn’t remember what we did or what we talked about. I mean that I literally had no memory of the events. To me it was like it never happened. It was like he never visited. There was just an empty space in my brain that had been overwritten by the stress and anxiety of Splinter Cell. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory gave me brain damage.

[…]

“Writing it all down, now, I have to confess I have mixed feelings about it. I am really, truly proud of what we accomplished with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. It stands the test of time as one of the best games ever made. At the same time, the personal cost for making it was real and serious. It’s not about forgotten beers in some bar on St Laurent. It’s about brain damage and the loss of life. To this day, I am still not sure what the right equation is there. I’m still not sure if it was worth it. I’m still not sure if I would do it again if I had the chance.”

Maybe Hocking found his answer and the answer is “fuck no”. Or maybe he’s joining EA now, I don’t know. I’ve emailed to ask.

If you’d like to learn more about Clint Hocking’s design ethos, he wrote us this essay about the immersive sim back in 2010.

Thanks, Gamasutra.

54 Comments

  1. padger says:

    I guess he’s not going to announce a AAA Amazon-funded FPS any time soon, then.

    Make a game, Clint! <3

    • EOT says:

      I work in sales and see chaps like this all the time. There’s always a big buzz when they join the company as they are apparently ‘the shit’ but a year or 18 months later they’re gone. Basically be cause they get found out and it turns out they’re not ‘the shit’ they’re just shit, and much of their past glory was done by others whilst they took the credit.

      They leave with good references though, because the company just wants rid of them as quickly as possible and avoid looking like they’ve been taken for a ride.

      • grimdanfango says:

        If we’re making presumptions – perhaps instead a shit company talks up a big bunch of promises to entice in a guy who they think is “the shit”, in the hope that throwing a big shot at a project might be all that’s required… and the guy quickly realises that the company is a miserable place to work, puts in the minimum work he needs to while he works out his next move, and then promptly gets the fuck out of dodge, in the hope of finding another company that might actually treat people like human beings, and give him the time and space he needs to actually come up with something good.

        …not saying that’s the case, but it seems at least as likely a possibility based on *my* experiences.

        • Paj says:

          I think this is the more likely scenario. Amazon like to throw money at a problem, and they’ve had some success in the TV space. But you can’t make a great game just by adding money plus disparate albeit successful game developers, and expect to have an AAA game in 18 months.

          • Dawngreeter says:

            Just to clarify – Amazon does not, categorically, throw money at a problem. Ever. Even the NYT article that is dubiously sourced and obviously constructed as a take down piece gets that much right.

        • AL-97 says:

          I completely agree with grimdanfango. Not to say that recent publication at NYTimes revealed Amazon to be a very unhealthy place to work at. Please read EOT, before making claims such as that you just did: link to nytimes.com

        • Arglebargle says:

          Both of these occur. Talking to friends in the Biz, I’ve certainly heard a number of stories of highly-paid big names who were net drags on their game’s production. Yet no one is willing to talk publicly, so they just keep on going.

          Hocking’s ‘two years and out’ pattern does suggest that something is going on.

        • EOT says:

          “If we’re making presumptions – perhaps instead a shit company talks up a big bunch of promises to entice in a guy who they think is “the shit”, in the hope that throwing a big shot at a project might be all that’s required… ”

          Oh, I’ve seen that happen too. They’re normally smart enough not to stick around though…just saying.

      • Itdoesntgoaway says:

        Sadly, and from purely personal experience so mileage may vary, this is exactly what I thought.

        5 years in Book Publishing witnessing the same sorry cycle.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Another thing that does happen with creative/ideas people is they simply run out of good ideas. Good ideas aren’t an infinitely replaceable commodity and as we see with the music industry, lots of people making one good song, or one good album, getting loads of hype for the follow up and it’s shit. They get hired on past successes then fail to generate anything as impressive as they did previously, hence leading to them being an expensive waste of money that isn’t producing what the company thought they would.

      • Gazza says:

        The fact that Hocking casually describes Chaos Theory as “one of the best games ever made” suggests he might have a bit of an ego problem. I mean, it was a decent game, and arguably the highlight of the Good Ubisoft era (PoP/XIII/BG&E), but it was also the second iterative sequel in a series that always felt a bit sterile. It’s more Invisible War than Deus Ex. And the less said about Far Cry 2 the better.

        • hawken.grey says:

          I don’t want to diss the guy too bad, but I heard him speak at GDC years ago, and I definitely left with the impression that he had a bit of an ego problem.

  2. geldonyetich says:

    A lot of these professional creative types are notorious nomads jumping from opportunity to opportunity because it may only ever come a-knocking once. Also any given gig they land is destined to be only temporary anyway since a released (or soon to be released) game/TV show/movie/whatever hardly needs any manpower anymore so you either move on or wait for your walking papers.

    So it’s hard to say of this one developer’s exodus means anything for him or the companies that employ him. It’s just a developer’s lot.

  3. Sam says:

    Alternate theories for his departure:

    His colleagues instigate the ludunarrative dissonance drinking game. Within two years too many of his team have died than can be reasonably explained, and like an immortal among the living he must move on. Due to Amazon’s excellent logistical support that team died 25% faster than the others.

    He keeps giving team members malaria and only allowing access to magic pills when milestones are met.

    His keyboard jams in the middle of designing a game, in the ensuing panic a grenade rolls down a slightly inclined desk.

  4. Muppetizer says:

    I hope this gives him the chance to develop something on his own terms. Far Cry 2 and Chaos Theory were both amazing, but it really feels like his design ambitions are more suited towards non AAA projects. To be really selfish about the situation, hopefully this will give him the time to update his blog a bit more.

  5. draglikepull says:

    We’re never going to see a Clint Hocking or Patrice Desilets game ever again, are we? I was beginning to worry we’d never see another Soren Johnson game either until his Mars strategy game actually started to see the light of day.

    Just goes to show you how hard it is to get a game finished.

  6. newc0253 says:

    “I do not mean I didn’t remember what we did or what we talked about. I mean that I literally had no memory of the events.”

    I also literally had no idea of what ‘literally’ meant.

    • Urthman says:

      Pretty sure he means “literally” there literally. He’s claiming he’s not just fuzzy on the details but that he can’t remember it happening at all, even though he knows it did.

      Not sure why that seems odd. I’m sure there are whole months from 10+ years ago that I can’t remember any particular events from. Can you pull up a specific memory from November 2003? January 2005?

      • newc0253 says:

        No, he says specifically that “I do not mean I didn’t remember what we did or what we talked about”.

        In other words, he *does* remember what he did and what he talked about.

        If he literally had no memory of those events, he wouldn’t be able to remember them.

        Logic’s a bitch, huh?

        • Sam says:

          I take that quote to mean:
          “I didn’t just forget the content of our conversations or what restraunt we went to. I forgot that the event happened entirely.”

          You’re right that his wording is imperfect, as the double negative would mean that he did remember those details. But I’m almost certain that his intended meaning was a single negative. The source was a spoken interview and that kind of loose phrasing is far more common there than in something written. “I didn’t do nothing,” and so on.

        • Frank says:

          Try inserting a “merely” or a “just”, like so:

          “I do not mean [merely that] I didn’t remember what we did or what we talked about”

          I agree that it’s hard to follow without that insertion, however, it is not strictly necessary for the statement to have the same meaning. “I don’t mean Z = A. Rather, I mean Z = A & B” is perfectly sensible. Substitute Z for the term he is clarifying and you’re good to go. Have an enjoyable life making more legitimate disses of folks’ logical acumen, and be sure to remember that none of them give a damn.

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          Grizzly says:

          Spending a week at someone’s house tends to come up in later conversations. You know, like “Remember that night at the bar?” “What night?” “You know, the last day of when you stayed with us!” “… I stayed with you?”

    • Eight Rooks says:

      You’ve never been blackout drunk? When alcohol kills your ability to form long-term memories and you don’t remember a thing about what happened? You don’t get vague impressions, it’s like someone turned a switch off and then on again twelve hours later or whatever. I read the article a while back and it sounded to me as if he was saying the stress had pretty much the same effect. So yes, literally.

      • newc0253 says:

        Yes, I’ve been blackout drunk. There have been things I literally don’t remember (though the memories came back eventually). But he says, in terms, that he *doesn’t* mean that.

        In fact, I read him as saying he remembers the events but they feel like they never happened. Like when you’re back at work three days after having been on holiday for a month. Which isn’t to say that you don’t remember your holiday, but it feels like it didn’t really happen.

    • grimdanfango says:

      If you’re going to be a language pedant, you might want to think about what you’re reading before you correct it.
      “Literally” isn’t misused in literally all cases, after all.

      • newc0253 says:

        You mean “literally” as “in a literal manner”?

        And ‘literal’ in the sense of “taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or exaggeration”?

        He says he remembers the events in question. But that he “literally” has no meaning of them.

        So, please, elaborate. Assuming the first part of his statement is true (i.e. he remembers the events), how is the second part “literally” true?

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          See Sam and Frank’s responses above. This is so clearly what he meant. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying you’re literally completely wrong. Clumsy, but clear enough.

  7. Xzi says:

    “joined and left Valve”

    He dun fucked up.

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    Wisq says:

    I didn’t even know that Amazon Game Studios was a thing.

    I wonder if it’s just coincidence that he’s leaving around the same time that several sites have published details about how working at Amazon is like having all your teeth slowly pulled out without anaesthetic, except without any actual health benefit?

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    Aerothorn says:

    It was me. I cursed him in a moment of anger after a Far Cry 2 checkpoint respawned for the 78th time. It was rash. I’m sorry, Clint.

  10. Core says:

    Troubling that it has been such a long time since he last shipped a game.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    After reading the recent New York Times article, I’m not really surprised he left Amazon.
    link to nytimes.com

  12. S Jay says:

    “Best games ever made” might be pushing it a bit too far. I did enjoy the game, though.

    • KenTWOu says:

      That’s why “one of the best games ever made“ sounds appropriate.

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    Phasma Felis says:

    It’s disturbing to me that he can’t decide if making a cool video game was worth literal brain damage.

    • grimdanfango says:

      That shows the kind of passion a lot of creatives can have for their work, it’s entirely admirable on its own I’d say. The disturbing element is that the majority of corporations will gladly encourage such behaviour, and hold it up as a fine example of professionalism in order to make everyone else feel that it’s something to aspire to, rather than something self destructive.

      • Arglebargle says:

        And it’s not just the evil, giant three-initial corporations that do it. One of the dark secrets of Origin Systems was the number of nervous breakdowns, marriage break ups, and the like stemming from things like the year long crunch on various projects.

  14. aircool says:

    Don’t remember Far Cry 2. I was busy in some crappy dusty country getting shot at.

  15. seruko says:

    Never thought I see someone from this site go all in on “Far Cry:Racism, White Savior of Africa.” Way to shake it up.

    • Nereus says:

      Not sure what you mean by this? I’ve played Far Cry 2 considerably, and it’s not so much white saviour as black hell, which very much reflects some of the conditions in Central Africa where it was set.

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        Grizzly says:

        I also distinctly recall Jackal’s “Africa wins again” statement in the Heart of Darkness, painting Africa itself as this all consuming force that kills anyone which tries to exploit the situation for their own gains, including you, the Jackal, the arms dealer, your merc buddies, all the faction leaders and, well, basically anyone who has held a gun in the game. The only reason you are there is because of a project by a person suffering from terminal cancer to feel a bit better about his sins, and the character joins the gambit in the end because, well, he’s a terminal case, same as the Jackal is.

        Contrast FC3, which basically praises you as a “white saviour” right from the get go (untill they stab you in the heart in the end).

  16. SanguineAngel says:

    Perhaps it is as simple as his being hired on at these companies to fulfil a specific role or task at which he specialises and that may be something that typically is resolved earlier in the develo

  17. Tuco says:

    Far Cry 2 was one one my biggest disappointments in gaming, one of the games I despised the most and arguably even the title that on pair with Assassin’s Creed started the trend that made me associate pretty much anything from Ubisoft with “atrociously dull game design built on repetition and collect-a-thon garbage”.

    Not really related to this news, I’ll admit, but I just wanted to point that out, since it always annoys me a bit when people try to defend that game and paint it as if was something extremely ambitious and original with just some minor flaws.

  18. GallonOfAlan says:

    Far Cry 2 – well, no other game has evoked a dirty war in a backwater country as well, and it still looks fantastic. Gameplay-wise, yes, sort of broken but play the PC version with all the checkpoint silliness modded out and it’s fantastic.

    • Nogo says:

      I feel like a crazy person for not really noticing the checkpoints as an issue.

      You can drive right through them.

  19. Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

    We went golfing (among other things) on my stag do. As a direct result I have no memory of the entire weekend spent in Prague.. Blasted golf!

  20. Nereus says:

    Far Cry 2 is still my favourite far cry game and one of my favourite FPS. I think behind only Crysis. People hated it because it was rough, because you sometimes had to go out of your way to ensure you survived another day, because your guns were all flawed and the dark could be painful to play in. But that’s what you’d be like if somebody drugged you, dumped you in the CAR or north-eastern DRC and gave you a dirty, soviet era kalashnikov to defend yourself.

    No other game has come close to being as beautiful and as ugly a game as Far Cry 2 in my time gaming.

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      Aerothorn says:

      People (mostly) hated it because of infinitely respawning checkpoints and the fact that every single member of your faction was out to murder you, neither of which can be justified by realism/authenticity.